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How to solve the productivity puzzle

Many successful people attribute success to their ability to focus their time, effort and energy but choosing the right tasks for the moment is a big part of the productivity puzzle. DALE FURTWENGLER reports.

On any given day, small business owners are faced with a variety of challenges. These may include any and all of the following: enhancing existing customer relationships, attracting new customers, and anticipating customers’ changing needs.

Add to that evaluating competitors’ product launches/price changes, identifying new markets, improving productivity, improving employee morale, attracting/retaining talent, and dealing with regulatory issues.

The list is endless – and the problem for business owners, especially traditional retailers, is that no-one can focus on all of these at once so how does one choose?

Focus on urgency

Some people base their choice on urgency. Is the business losing top talent? Are sales languishing? Has the business’ primary market become a commodity market? Is the business losing its most profitable customers? The problem with urgency is that it’s about reacting to situations, scrambling to maintain the status quo. This means it’s not a great long-term strategy.

Focus on enjoyment

In the absence of any emergency, business people are likely to choose to work on the things that interest them the most.

Often this means they will delegate less-pleasant tasks to others – but this should not exempt them from monitoring delegated work or applying strategic thinking in those realms.

Focus on rotation

One method that works well is to set aside time each week to focus on various aspects of the business. Devote some time to the following tasks:

• Evaluate your customer base – Have you contacted customers recently? Have there been any problems that surfaced from a failure on your part to craft a solution to a customer problem?

Have any customers indicated an interest in product? Have any requested help with new issues?

• Identify new markets – Have you received requests for new products or services? Are there new markets you should be addressing?

What progress have you made in approaching markets you’ve identified but not yet penetrated? How effective has your approach been so far?

• Improve productivity – How can you streamline the processes involved in marketing, selling, producing and delivering your products? Are you continuing to monitor your performance?

The quicker you deliver a solution to your customers, the quicker they get a return on their investment with you.

• Monitor staff morale/productivity – Are you monitoring employee productivity to find early indicators of morale issues?

Are you asking staff for ideas of how the business can improve performance and speed while increasing customer satisfaction?

When you allow your mind to work on what it wants to address, you not only complete that task more quickly but also find it easier to focus on the scheduled items when you return to them.

It’s wise to put these sections into a weekly calendar – but don’t feel the need to be rigid about scheduling. It’s perfectly fine to allow for movement within the week, but try to avoid allowing the sessions to slip into subsequent weeks as this readily translates into a habit of deferring work.

Focus on flexibility

Retailers should allow for flexibility during their weeks for a variety of reasons. Firstly, if energy levels are low on any given day, owners and managers may experience a diminished ability to concentrate.

If so, opt for some ‘mindless’ tasks that need to be completed and postpone the truly important work for the following day. Prepare for these tasks by hitting the sack early that evening to ensure you have the energy to tackle important jobs the next day.

Another reason to maintain a flexible schedule is to allow yourself the opportunity to flick between tasks based upon how you feel at the time. There are days when you might have scheduled blog writing time but instead stare at the screen for five fruitless minutes.

Whatever the reason for your inability to deal with the issue at that moment, it makes sense to shift your focus to the issue your mind wants to address.

In other words, don’t fight nature, as this is a futile pursuit that leads to a general lack of productivity.

Interestingly, when you allow your mind to work on what it wants to address, you not only complete that task more quickly but also find it much easier to focus on the scheduled items when you return to them.

This simple approach will not only help you ensure you’re touching all the bases in your business each week but also ensure you’re pre-empting many of the issues that affect business owners who only deal with those based on urgency.

Now go and focus!



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Dale Furtwengler

Founder • Furtwengler & Associates

Dale Furtwengler is the founder of Furtwengler & Associates. Hs is a speaker, author and business consultant. Learn more: pricingforprofitbook.com

SAMS Group Australia

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